Our Inattentional Blindness Keeps Us–Asleep at the Wheel

The other day a man was videoed sleeping behind the wheel of a self-driving car as it traveled in excess of 70 mph in heavy traffic on a Los Angeles freeway.  As absurd as that sounds it is similar to how many of us go through life.  Even when awake we find ourselves cruising through life on auto-pilot.  One wonders just how aware we really are of our surroundings?  We have eyes to see, ears to hear and a brain that collects information but just how accurate are they in keeping us attentive to what is happening around us?

Take our eyes for example.  It is logical to think that if our eyes are open we are pretty much seeing everything that is taking place around us.  Researchers have found that we are susceptible to the psychological phenomenon called inattentional blindness.  This means rather than focusing in on every detail that is before us, we tend to concentrate only on those things that are most important to us.  It is our mind that is responsible for processing the information we receive and determining what information is worthy of our attention.

The following study by researcher Dr. Daniel Simons illustrates how our mind makes its determination of what is important and what isn’t.  Simons did a study in which his subjects viewed a video of someone being served at a counter.  The server dips behind the counter to retrieve something they dropped and pops back up.  “So what,” you think.  Interesting enough most of those viewing the video didn’t notice anything different either, but what was different was that the server wasn’t the same person.  “Impossible,” you say.  Even changing the gender or race of the server behind the counter made little difference.  This shows us just how little we really see of what is happening around us.

Dr. Simon’s most interesting study had to do with the ‘invisible gorilla’.  In this study, researchers were asked to watch a video of two teams, three dressed in white and three dressed in black, tossing a basketball.  They were then told to count the number of passes versus bounced passes each team made.  Afterward, the participants were asked if they had noticed anything unusual while watching the video.  Fifty percent didn’t see anything out of the normal.  But in reality something did happen.  During the video a person in a black gorilla suit strolled through the scene, turned to the camera, thumped their chest and then walked away.  This demonstrates that when we are focused on a demanding task, the things that our ‘mind’ deems as being inconsequential become invisible to us.  The importance of this is emphasized in Matt. 6:23, “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.”  NKJV

Whether we realize it or not our mind influences us in ways that we are not always aware of.  How our mind receives and processes information should be a concern to us because this determines how we make the decisions that guide our lives.  To better understand just how intelligent the conversation that goes on within our mind is, we need to look at what researchers have aptly named ‘self-talk’.  Self-talk refers to the internal dialogue that goes on inside our mind when faced with conflict or life challenges or even simple day-to day concerns.  It is as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we are to perceive every situation.  It does not allow anything to go by without some comment, remark or evaluation.  Scientific studies show that self-talk operates at between 800 and 1,500 words per minute.

It shouldn’t surprise us that much of the chatter going on inside our heads however is not positive, but negative and is comprised of ideas about ourselves that were formed from the things we initially heard from a parent, teacher or someone who was in authority over us or they were decisions we made in reaction to some event.  Now as an adult we have incorporated them into our personality.  In effect we don’t need those people to tell us what to do anymore because they now live inside our own head.  Most of our thinking is not edifying but rather self-criticism.  Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  NIV

What You Think Does Affect Your Well Being

Take for instance the research by Dr. Emoto of Japan into the effects that our spoken and unspoken words have on the molecular structure of water.    This is significant because 70% of the Earth and 70% of our bodies are comprised of water.  Even more startling is the fact that 90% of our brain contains water.  If the results that Dr. Emoto came up with are accurate then the quality of our health, ‘physically, emotionally and spiritually’ can be directly tied to not only our spoken words but our unspoken thoughts.  Perhaps that is what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” NIV

In his study Dr. Emoto documented the molecular changes in water by means of a process where he freezes the droplets of water and then examines them under a microscope.  Using the same test he looked at water from pristine mountain streams to toxic water from industrial sites.  It stands to reason that these sites would dramatically vary under the testing.  But it was his test on the impact of words and thoughts on the water that were most interesting.  He would type words such as ‘Hitler’, ‘Love’, ‘I hate you’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Mother Teresa’, ‘You make me sick’ and attach them to a test tube and take a before and after photo of them.  The changes were as dramatic as the pictures of the pristine water versus the industrial water.

In another experiment he typed words in another language and attached them to test-tubes by people who didn’t understand the language with the same results.  Even playing different styles of music (Classical, Rock or Grunge) over the test-tubes produced similar results.  Dr. Emoto found that two words (love and gratitude) when combined brought about the healthiest results.  Just one of these words was not enough.  Love needed to be based in gratitude, and gratitude needed to be based in love.  The two words that had the most destructive impact were (you fool) “…And anyone who says, “you Fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:22 NIV

Dr. Emoto’s research gives us scientific evidence that confirms God’s word as found in Philippians 4:8.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  NIV

We may not intentionally be asleep while careening down the interstate on auto-pilot but we can choose to think and be transformed by the renewing of our mind through the power of the Holy Spirit. II Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

It is our prayer that our minds will stay alert and awake as we intentionally choose to see as He sees and live in love and gratitude that shines forth from our hearts to a dying world.




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